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How to Become a Full Stack Developer (Step-by-Step Guide)

No one could fault you for feeling a bit overwhelmed.

After all, a quick Google search for “full stack development” renders an impossibly long list of acronyms: HTML, CSS, JS, MySQL, and PHP, just to name a few. At heart, full stack developers are highly versatile jacks-of-all-trades in an industry that demands comprehensive programming knowledge.

Take a breath: learning how to become a full stack web developer isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as you initially might think. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of full stack development, what you need to learn, and how you can prepare yourself for a full-blown career in development.

Wondering what’s next? Here’s a sneak peek at our six steps to becoming a full stack developer:

  1. Identify The Skills You Need to Learn

  2. Determine Your Ideal Timeline

  3. Start Learning in a Format That Suits You

  4. Begin Building Your Portfolio

  5. Start the Job Search

  6. Ace the Interview

What is a Full Stack Developer?

To become a full stack developer, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with two basic web development concepts: the front end and the back end.

The front end, also known as client-side or customer-facing side, refers to all the elements of a computer application that users interact with directly. By contrast, the back end encompasses all the behind-the-scenes tech that computes business logic, fulfills user requests, and permanently stores sensitive data.

You can think of the front end as the tip of an iceberg, while the bulk of the unseen back end extends far below the water’s surface.

Front end developers create and optimize visible parts of a website, making components responsive to different viewing environments, such as smartphones, tablets, and desktops. They use client-facing programming languages, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, to render an engaging site.

On the other hand, back end development requires programmers to build and refine the internal software that operates a company’s databases, servers, and proprietary software. Back end developers are responsible for creating the pathways to deliver information to and from users who operate front end interfaces.

This is where full stack development comes in. “Full stack” refers to the entirety of a site or application’s front and back end architecture. As you might expect, full stack professionals are capable of addressing both sides of the proverbial equation.

Rise, Fall, and Resurgence

At the onset of the Internet age, most web developers were dubbed full stack developers. In the 1970s and 80s, it was common for a single person to craft a software program from start to finish because there weren’t many layers of complexity between the computer’s hardware and the programmer.

However, as applications became increasingly elaborate, full stack development began to waver in its ubiquity. The advent of client-server computing in the nineties, coupled with the rising popularity of the net, necessitated the emergence of trained specialists. Programmers were subdivided based on the company’s stack: Networks, the front end, databases, and servers were all managed by distinct departments.

The diversified trend only started to reverse in the late 2000s. New technologies became streamlined, allowing aspiring developers to construct a fully fledged application in a shorter period. Gone were the days of the Java stack and Oracle databases — instead, high-powered databases like MySQL, PHP, and Ruby on Rails claimed the spotlight.

In recent years, the rarefied full stack developer has become significantly more critical. Employers understand their centrality; after all, every team benefits from at least one individual with a holistic knowledge of a project’s parts. Full stack developers have a special knack for drawing together various tech tiers into a neatly packaged application.

In short, full stack developers are responsible for the following activities:

  • Working with a website from start to final launch

  • Prototyping, creating, and building websites along with user interface teams

  • Designing user interactions through robust front end architecture

  • Managing database and server administration duties

  • Communicating with end-users to determine product effectiveness

According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Study, at least fifty percent of developers identify as full stack professionals, while 55.2 percent identify as back end, and 37.1 percent as front end.

Of course, becoming a full stack developer isn’t as simple as titling yourself one. There are a few mission-critical skills you’ll need to master before sending out those job applications.

So, what does it take to become a full stack developer? Below, we’ll jump into the core competencies you’ll need to succeed.

Identify the Skills You Need to Learn

Every learner’s path will be slightly different depending on their preexisting experience and skill set. If you’re a true beginner, you’ll require specialized training and project experience to become a developer. The same applies to hobbyists, who will need to upskill much more than professional developers who hope to upgrade their careers.

Take stock of your skills! Here are a few basic capabilities that you’ll need to master if you want to thrive as a full stack developer:

  • HTML

  • CSS

  • JavaScript

  • DOM Manipulation


  • Java

  • Object-Oriented Programming

While a full stack developer’s education is never really complete, the above skills will provide you with a sturdy foundation!

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